Teacher Feature: Paula Burleigh

Paula Burleigh. Photo credit to Ayla Safran, '15.
Paula Burleigh. Photo credit to Ayla Safran, ’15.

Jed Lenetsky, ‘15

Some of you know who she is, some of you may not, but she can be spotted in the history office, with a Strand Bookstore mug by her side. This is Ms. Burleigh’s third year teaching at BHSEC, but her first year as a full-time faculty member. Trained in art history, Ms. Burleigh taught an art history elective titled “Museum as Medium” at BHSEC for two years, in which students studied art curation by visiting art exhibitions around New York City. The course culminated with students designing and curating their own exhibition, which was displayed in an art gallery in New York City. This year, Ms. Burleigh is teaching Year Two seminar, bringing her knowledge of art history to Marx, Du Bois, and other authors.

Ms. Burleigh grew up in Oregon and Washington, and went to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia for her undergraduate degree. Originally a business major, she took all the required courses “and absolutely hated it.” She fell in love with art history when she took an elective freshman year. “Then I thought I would minor in it,” she said, “then I thought I would double major, but then I realized that I just wanted to be an art history major.” Ms. Burleigh continued on to get her master’s degree at Case Western Reserve in Columbus, Ohio and is currently working on her PhD dissertation.

Art history is “inherently interdisciplinary,” Ms. Burleigh said, “because when you are learning about art you are also learning about politics, post-colonial theory, feminism, and literary theory.” For Ms. Burleigh, art is a vehicle through which she, along with her students, can explore many other academic interests.

So far, Ms. Burleigh has had a highly positive experience teaching at BHSEC. She enjoys the fact that she can teach smaller classes in which she can construct her own curriculum, rooted in primary texts (whether they be visual or literary) and not have to teach merely from a textbook. She has also found that students at BHSEC are intellectually curious and come to classroom “very excited about learning.”

When she isn’t teaching, Ms. Burleigh can be found at MoMA or the Whitney Museum, reading fiction, going to farmers markets, cooking, and spending time with her cat, Rizzo.

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